In the high mountain, pastoral areas of Qinghai poverty and environmental deterioration are pronounced, and natural disasters (such as severe snow disaster and spring drought) are frequent. They severely jeopardise the livelihoods and production activities of local herders and at same time undermine the sustainable development of the local economy and threaten the stability of the society. This combination of high exposure to natural disasters, poverty of local herders, steadily increasing pressure from livestock diseases and decline of pastoral productivity, caused by and resulting in poverty and a deteriorating environment, in turn inhibit the herders’ and government’s capacity to prevent and prepare for hazard risks, and manage and protect the environment.
Family-based pastoral livestock production units in the province are further constrained, and their capacity for disaster prevention is undermined, by several factors:
- A lack of forage production and storage for the cold seasons, i.e. winter and early spring.
- Poor infrastructure: villages and herders cannot afford to invest in infrastructure to improve production or to build up a risk prevention capability.
- Inadequate social services. The technical service capacity of governmental line agencies for livestock and pastoral management is limited, so that the service can not meet the demand of herders for preparedness for, and resilience to, risk. An effective disaster early warning system is not yet established to predict disaster. Lack of animal insurance and credit for small producers makes herder households vulnerable to natural disasters.
- Poor educational level of herders in the high plateau is a constraint to preventing losses during disasters and achieving self-reliance afterwards.
- Poverty and lack of opportunities for economic diversification and income-generating activities in the high plateau are economic constraints on pastoral risk management. The vicious cycle built between pastoral poverty and frequent natural disaster seriously affects the livelihoods of herders.
- Degradation of vegetation and changes in the ecosystem result in a more fragile environment for livestock production, worsen the situation and creates another vicious cycle. Variable and sometimes insufficient pasture and inadequate management capacities of herder households hamper the development of livestock production into a more intensive system.
- Management and technical services at provincial, prefecture and county level, especially in townships, are at a low level. The departments concerned lack risk management ability. This leads to a situation where herders usually do not maintain close links with these departments and technical institutions, which further reduces the effectiveness of efforts made by the government in poverty alleviation, risk resistance and disaster mitigation.
As a result of these factors vulnerability steadily worsens, and drastically accelerates due to sudden natural calamities.